A Brief History of Ariens Mid-Sized Snow Blowers
Here's a brief history of Ariens snow blowers, focusing on their mainstream 7 and 8 HP, 24-inch machines over the decades between the 1960s and the 2000s.
1974-1979 Ariens 924 Series
The older 924 series Ariens machines, particularly those made between 1974 and 1979 are virtually indestructible and extremely durable. These are quite desirable owing to their heavy-duty construction.
Although most sellers identify the 924 series machines with commercial controls, and especially with the square snow box, as 1980s or 1990s machines, these models were actually made between 1974 and 1979. The tear-drop-shaped snow box was carried over from the late-1960s and used all the way up through 1978. It is found on models #924013 through #92435 made from 1974 through 1978. In 1979, the new, heavy, square snow box was introduced and used on models #924036 through #924044 during that year, the last year of production for this Ariens generation. The square snow box remained in use for the 1980s ST724 models.
1979 Ariens 924 Series
The 1979 724 and 824 represent the culmination of design excellence for an entire generation of Ariens snow blowers owing to their unique combination of heavy-duty construction and real, operator-accessible, commercial controls. For instance, the gear selector and augur engagement employ large, push-button, interlocks that prevent unintentional gear changes or augur operation. A drive-augur interlock resides under the right handle. It must be depressed (held up) to operate the augurs. If it is released while the augurs are engaged, the machine stops. Other nice features include a remote throttle, an ignition on-off key switch, and an articulated, remote chute rotation control (210 degrees), all located at the operator's fingertips. Extremely large and thick augurs, made of ribbon-flight welded steel, easily chop up and swallow large amounts of snow. A large, heavy steel, 4-blade impeller is used to discharge snow with authority. Finally, the 1979 has the earlier, large-capacity chute that throws snow up to 40 feet, but is noticeably harder to clog than newer, narrower chutes. A picture of a 1979 Ariens 724 appears to the right.
1960s Ariens Snow Blowers
Prior to the 1970s 924 models, Ariens snow blowers made in the 1960s were equally sturdy, but had archaic controls and other safety issues. For instance, early-1960s machines had exposed augurs, which could only be covered by optional steel, side flaps. See the picture to the right of an early-1960s Ariens 824. 1960s controls were located on each handlebar with no "dash panel". The control layout presented safety issues because the drive disengaged upon depressing a handle instead of when releasing it. There was no safety control for the augurs, which were operated by a manual Power Take-Off (PTO) hand lever located down low adjacent to the bottom of the engine and the belt cover! An example of a late-1960s machine with its newer "tear-drop"-shaped snow box (used up through 1978) and handlebar controls is shown below and to the right.
1980s Ariens ST724 and ST824
The successors to the 1979 724 and 824 were named the ST724 and ST824. These models received a black engine, black handlebar, and black panel that was actually located lower on the handlebar with slightly "newer" but less convenient controls and no remote throttle. Although these are often mistaken for contemporary machines, they were built starting the very next year, 1980. See the picture to the left of a 1980 Ariens ST724. The ST platform was updated over its roughly 15-year lifecycle into the early-1990s in various ways, including: replacement of the cast-iron gearbox with an aluminum gearbox; changeover to a lighter, thinner-gauge steel snow box; use of a lighter, 3-blade impeller (no longer ribbon-flight welded steel); and use of thinner, lighter augurs; along with introduction of other cosmetic changes. Interestingly, the earliest 1980 ST724 is identical to the 1979 Ariens 724, except for the cited updates (black engine, handlebar, and dash panel).
1990s Ariens ST724 and ST824
In the 1990s, Ariens developed a compact snow blower platform, still called the ST724 or ST824. This compressed snow blower model was severely cheapened with a shallow, thin-steel, round-topped snow box, smaller diameter impeller, shorter and smaller impeller barrel, and even plastic wheels. By this point, the cast-iron augur gearbox was replaced with an aluminum gearbox. Ariens experimented with various control configurations, including a lawnmower-style, drive pull handle, on this platform during its long life-cycle. This snow blower best serves buyers with limited space, who expect a shorter product life. See the picture to the right of a 1998 Ariens ST724.
2000s Ariens 724 and 824
Finally, in the early 2000s, Ariens returned to the older naming convention and produced a larger 724 and 824 with a square-style snow box like that of the 1979 and 1980s models. However, these contemporary machines now had thinner steel construction with a lighter snow box (thinner gauge steel with corrugations for stiffness), much lighter augurs (serrated in later years), lighter but taller steel chute, and other losses in structural integrity. By this point, the dashboard was returned to a more user-friendly design located closer to the operator, but much of the substance that Ariens built its reputation on was gone. See the picture to the left of a 2000 Ariens 824.
The bottom line is that with most all yard equipment including snow blowers, generally the older you go, the better built the machine. This is true for Ariens snow blowers except for the earliest 1960s machines, which were crudely designed with non-intuitive and unsafe controls. With the absence of no real new yard equipment technology, like their lawn and yard tractor cousins, snow blowers have been severely de-contented and structurally lightened over the past 20-25 years.
As you may have realized from the above history, the 1979 Ariens is considered to be one of the most desirable, functional, powerful, and user-friendly machines ever made by Ariens Folks who own and maintain 1974 to 1979 era Ariens snow blowers are generally inclined to keep them for many years. Such owners are known to replace an engine, should it fail, rather than buy a newer, significantly less durable snow blower.
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